UD cop doesn’t like having to investigate beachballs

Officer Slater is aggrieved because he knows he’ll be asked to investigate whether the giant penis drawn on the “free speech beachball” is a hate crime. It’s true it’s bound to be reported as one, but you know what officer? That’s your job. You’re a campus cop, OK? You are not protecting Gotham City from evildoers, you are investigating complaints of hate graffiti, some of which are going to turn out to be bogus. Somebody’s got to do it, and that’s why we pay you to do it.

Officer Involved

Radio station KPCC has put together an impressive expose of the Los Angeles Police Department. Apparently, if you want to kill unarmed, non-violent people without fear of prosecution, the LAPD has a career option for you!

Maybe that’s why police officers are far more likely to abuse their children and partners than the rest of us – because we’re attracting and selecting the worst possible people to serve as peacekeepers? Or is it even worse than that; does police culture actually create monsters from people who honestly wanted to do good?

“The infliction of physical punishment is not every man’s job, and naturally we were only too glad to recruit men who were prepared to show no squeamishness at their task. Unfortunately, we knew nothing about the Freudian side of the business, and it was only after a number of instances of unnecessary flogging and meaningless cruelty that I tumbled to the fact that my organization had been attracting all the sadists in Germany and Austria without my knowledge for some time past. It had also been attracting unconscious sadists, i.e. men who did not know themselves that they had sadist leanings until they took part in a flogging. And finally it had actually been creating sadists. For it seems that corporal chastisement ultimately arouses sadistic leanings in apparently normal men and women. Freud might explain it.” — Rudolf Diels, as quoted in Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts”.

14-yr-old imprisoned for changing wallpaper

Zero tolerance means no harmless prank shall go unpunished.

This kid’s prank demonstrated that children in his school have the ability to easily see the questions to be used for the state’s standardized tests, because teachers there apparently have full administrator access to the school’s network, and their passwords are their upcased last names.

But nobody cares about that… I think they’re basically freaked out because it’s Florida, and the kid’s prank was to put a picture of men kissing on his teacher’s desktop. Education be damned, we must punish the gaiety! The teenager has since been released into his parents’ custody.

Obama administration speaks volumes on Zero Tolerance

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder have released many, many megabytes of recommendations and guidelines for improving school disciplinary systems. They recommend that schools use policies based on evidence and aligned with a goal of education, instead of the current policies, which are based on post-Columbine hysteria and a goal of maximizing punishment.

The “zero tolerance” nightmare has always been highly discriminatory towards the poor. The more money you have, the more effectively you can protect your children from the anti-educational cruelty that is the basis of modern US school discipline. When you combine this with the disproportionate number of people of color at lower income levels, and recognize similar inequities in the criminal justice system, the reason the school-to-prison pipeline principally victimizes non-white students is clear. The fact that rich people (who are mostly white) can dodge the absurdly extreme consequences of typical childish behaviors better than poor people (who mostly aren’t white) means that zero-tolerance policies, intended to be equally sadistic and harmful towards all children, are in practice part of a legacy of racism and color-line discrimination anywhere there is a significant non-white population. I’m going to be politically incorrect and say it’s nice to see people coming together to fight these horrible policies, though, and not merely their racist application and effects. Zero tolerance has to go now; the fifteen years we’ve had it have already sown an ill harvest – that we’ll reap for decades, if not centuries – and it’s going to hurt people of every race and color.

Effective discipline is, and always will be, a necessity. But a routine school discipline infraction should land a student in a principal’s office – not in a police precinct. — Eric Holder, 2014-01-08

Go go go NAACP of Delaware!

Yesterday the Delaware NAACP’s Jea Street wrote an excellent, fire-breathing letter to Governor Jack Markell and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, defending the Reach Academy and blasting the ongoing re-segregation of Delaware’s schools.

Delaware’s system is currently set up to provide blatantly unequal public education, segregated purely by wealth. And it’s not the good kind of unequal, which would consist of putting more resources where they can accomplish more, but instead Delaware’s Choice, Charter and Neighborhood Schools laws intentionally exaggerate pre-existing inequalities. The state is not using our tax dollars to break the cycle of poverty, but rather to provide marginally better facilities and instruction to the children of people who are relatively well off (and who in many cases quite frankly could afford private schools). Delaware’s infamous “zero tolerance in schools” policies also preferentially victimize the children of the poor.

Street and the NAACP have become involved because the majority of the poor in Delaware are people of color, and thus statistically speaking the system is rigged primarily against them, and because the Reach Academy primarily serves African-American children. Go get ’em Councilman Street!

Indefinite suspension for drawing a cartoon bomb.

In a bid to upstage Delaware as the most anti-child state in the USA, Greenville, South Carolina’s Hill Crest Middle School has suspended an autistic 13-year-old for drawing a picture of a bomb. News coverage here and here.

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” —George W. Bush, speaking in Florence, South Carolina, Jan. 11, 2000.

Zero Sanity, Zero Tolerance in Michigan

The ACLU’s got a petition to end zero tolerance in Michigan up, go sign it. I’ll wait.

By all accounts Kyle Thompson is a normal 14-year old kid who loves playing football and hanging out with his friends. His principal says he’d love to have an entire school filled with students like Kyle.

And yet, after a misunderstanding with his teacher, Kyle was led from school in handcuffs, was expelled from all state public schools for a year, and is now spending the year under house arrest.

Kyle’s teacher wanted to see a note he had written, and when she playfully tried to take it from him, he tried to hold on to it. Even though all the witness statements said that the teacher was joking around and Kyle didn’t act aggressively, the incident ended with Kyle under arrest. He’s now represented by a criminal defense attorney.

Kyle’s lucky enough to have parents willing and able to spend the big bucks it takes to pry your kid out of the zero tolerance trap. The kids from poorer families, well, they’re gettin a different education – they’re being trained to be the next generation of prison inmates and career criminals.

America’s heldenkeller

Bruce Schneir linked this interesting essay, which points out that the ever-dropping crime rate is sort of fake. In reality, crime (particularly rape) is increasing, but not counting crimes committed within the prison system gives an illusory decrease. We’re sweeping it under the rug, where it can flourish and grow out of sight. This is particularly disturbing in light of the findings of Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, which confirmed Rudolf Diels’ observations about how certain kinds of work create and foster sadism, and Temple Grandin’s observations on the behavior of slaughterhouse workers. When we imprison people, we not only intentionally punish and degrade the prisoners, we also unintentionally degrade many of the people we’ve hired to staff the prisons.

“The infliction of physical punishment is not every man’s job, and naturally we were only too glad to recruit men who were prepared to show no squeamishness at their task. Unfortunately, we knew nothing about the Freudian side of the business, and it was only after a number of instances of unnecessary flogging and meaningless cruelty that I tumbled to the fact that my organization had been attracting all the sadists in Germany and Austria without my knowledge for some time past. It had also been attracting unconscious sadists, i.e. men who did not know themselves that they had sadist leanings until they took part in a flogging. And finally it had actually been creating sadists. For it seems that corporal chastisement ultimately arouses sadistic leanings in apparently normal men and women. Freud might explain it.”Rudolf Diels, as quoted in Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts”.

Zero tolerance, zero intelligence, zero education

Number One Son attends a US public school, and thus has learned that the official answer must be given to any test question, and truth or falsehood has no bearing on this requirement. School administration these days is all about punishing deviance from arbitrary rules, and any other lessons learned can generally be credited to teachers who are successfully subverting the system.

Blogger Rob Krampf, however, was dismayed to learn that the standardized tests used in the US State of Florida are completely inadequate for testing knowledge or intelligence, and only measure conformance to authoritarian stupidity. You can read about it here. I guess Mr. Krampf never read The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher.

I don’t find it at all comforting to know that Florida’s state educational system is at least as poorly run as my local public schools. I hope Mr. Krampf can make a difference… Richard Feynman didn’t have a lot of luck, and he was a nobel-prize winning physicist.

Most of the USA is still firmly in the grip of the “zero tolerance” madness that started after the Columbine schoolyard shootings became a national obsession. In California, children can literally be expelled or suspended for rolling their eyes at a school administrator. One assumes the disproportionate number of minorities targeted for such actions is because California minorities are often dark-skinned, and it’s easier to see the whites of their eyes? But it’s not just California schools that have prioritized obedience over learning:

Six year old expelled for a hobo pocketknife
Louisiana 3rd grader suspended for drawing a picture of a knife
High school honor student suspended for accidentally picking up father’s lunchbox

The base principle of “zero tolerance” is a hatred for teaching; when presented with a “teaching moment”, that provides a perfect opportunity for increasing the intellectual capacities of the student, one must apply sufficiently harsh punishment to overcome the benefits of any learning that might take place.